Quick hits boost Sox
Martinez is buoyed by a six-run third
BALTIMORE -- For all the inspirational rhetoric, the Red Sox knew deep in their souls that the potential season-turning events in their instant classic Saturday against the Yankees would amount to a hill of beans if they failed to seize the momentum.
No carry-over, no glory.
Their demand to play the Yankees despite the front office's desire to postpone the game, Jason Varitek's galvanizing altercation with Alex Rodriguez, and the stirring comeback capped by Bill Mueller's walkoff homer: They all would go for naught unless the Sox used them for an extreme makeover.
Meet the new Sox. Even if the magic ends tomorrow, the revived Sox last night rolled up their third straight victory since Varitek introduced his leather mitt to A-Rod's face, this time obliterating the Orioles, 12-5, before a crowd of 42,113 thick with DNC-fleeing Boston partisans at Camden Yards.
"Maybe that's what we needed, to actually start going after everybody a little more aggressively," said Pedro Martinez, who was wise enough to watch Saturday's fray from ringside and sharp enough last night to reap the benefits of the renewed Sox offense as he improved to 11-4.
The victory was particularly valuable because it launched a four-city, 12-game road trip, the longest of the season for a team that generally has played poorly on the road. The Sox have started so slowly on the road that they almost have grown accustomed to trying to break even at the end.
"It's a long trip and it's nice to win the first one," manager Terry Francona said. "Every road trip, it's like we try to win the last couple to salvage it."
The mauling was no small feat since the Orioles had established themselves as even more dangerous regular-season rivals than the Yankees, outscoring the Sox, 46-24, in winning five of their six previous contests.
"I knew we had a tough series against the Yankees and our bullpen is a little beat up," Martinez said. "To be able to go through all that with the Yankees and right away pick up a win against a team that has given us the most difficulties I think is a good sign."
Old Sox or new Sox, things usually go better for them with Martinez on the mound. And though Martinez tweaked his right hip in the seventh inning and got little help from Terry Adams, who allowed both runners he inherited to score, the incumbent Sox ace rationed the Birds five runs on seven hits and a pair of walks to beat them for the first time in four starts this season.
Just last week, the Orioles hammered Martinez for eight runs over 6 2/3 innings in a 10-5 loss at Fenway, but he said he changed little about his approach last night.
"I just wanted to be aggressive around the strike zone and actually go get them," Martinez said. "That other time I got exhausted a little bit and they put the ball in play. They were more aggressive the other time than this time and that's the only difference. But it's not like I did the best job. I have to thank my teammates for actually getting an easy win."
The five Baltimore runs served as little more than a footnote since the Sox already had seized a 12-0 lead thanks in part to several rousing rallies. They struck for six runs in the third inning, four in the sixth, and two more in the seventh as every starter but Mueller either scored at least one run or knocked one in.
The Sox scored all their runs without the benefit of a home run, which has been the prime staple of their offense. They entered the night leading the majors in July with 43 homers (the Rangers ranked second with 40).
"To have that [six-run] inning, and we did it without a home run and we did a lot of it with two outs, that to me is what can propel us to be a good team," Francona said. "We're going to hit home runs, but when you string together two-out hits and guys hit the ball the other way and run the bases, that's how you win games."
Gabe Kapler, batting ninth as he filled in for the injured Trot Nixon, ignited all three rallies and scored three times. Varitek, playing for the first time since The A-Rod Incident, knocked in three runs, and David Ortiz, Manny Ramirez, and Kevin Millar each drove in two.
"I like the momentum of our lineup," Kapler said. "It was kind of cool to see us put together several great at-bats in a row. A lot of times we have one or two big hits that kind of epitomize the game, but it seemed like there was a certain rhythm to the lineup that was fun to see."
Thanks to the cakewalk, Francona was able to rest Ramirez in the sixth inning and Nomar Garciaparra in the seventh before he started making wholesale substitutions in the ninth. He also was able to give his bullpen horses -- Alan Embree, Mike Timlin, and Keith Foulke -- the night off, which he figured could help the Sox the next two nights.
Martinez, who held the Orioles scoreless until Miguel Tejada touched him for a two-run homer in the sixth, marked the triumph by recording his 2,557th career strikeout (fanning Larry Bigbie to end the fifth) to pass Jerry Koosman for 24th place all time. He surrendered another run in the seventh on a double by Javy Lopez and singles by Jerry Hairston and Bigbie before he gave way to Adams after 106 pitches.
The rejuvenated Ramiro Mendoza chipped in by blanking the O's for the final two innings.
All in all, the Sox seemed as encouraged by winning the opener of their road trip as keeping the momentum from Saturday's game rolling.
"It's kind of a cool thing because it puts you in grind mode right away," Kapler said of the latest victory. "You realize what you have ahead of you. There's really no pacing yourself because every game is so important. There's no saving a situation for another game because we know we're going to be battling for the next two weeks on the road under usually less than perfect travel conditions."
By the time it ends, the Sox will have traveled 4,251 air miles from Boston to Baltimore to Minnesota to Tampa Bay to Detroit and home. And they will return even better off than when they left if the magic continues.